Book Review: Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward (Tor Books – 1995)

I have to admit that this is one of my favorites, even though the only dragon in the book is enemy to the protagonists. What’s great about this story is how it turns the typical “save the world” storyline on its head.

In Villains by Necessity, good has destroyed evil in a great climactic battle. This world, full of elves and heroes and mountain dungeons, feels reminiscent of Middle Earth but with a darker twist. Without the balance between good and evil, the world will soon sublimate. A band of villains embarks on a quest to bring back evil and keep their world alive. Along the way, they wrestle with the idea of what it is to be truly evil and come face to face with their inner selves—in more ways than one.

Aside from the obvious thrill of seeing a book where the “bad guys” have to save the world from an overabundance of “good,” this book provides a great many twists and turns. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, but Eve Forward kept me on my toes.

My favorite character (though I loved them all) was Valeriana, a dark sorceress who hates being dirty. I can identify with that (which part, I won’t say). The complication of how much an evil character can care for the people around her is exemplified in Valeriana—and Sam, but I’ll just focus on Valerie. Eve Forward does an excellent job taking a character, driven by her goals and ambitions, and then also confronting her with other people, their ideas, their values, and the innate value that they possess.

I’m not going to say any more, because I don’t want to spoil the book for you, and all of you really should read it. If you’re into ebooks, I heard that it was converted to ebook format. Otherwise, the book is no longer in print, so it can cost between $35 and $75. It’s totally worth it, though. If we’re lucky, Tor will realize it and put out another edition.

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